THE NATIONAL Pig Association has welcomed a government decision allowing farmers to continue to feed animals with non-meat surplus products from the food and drink industry.

For many years these foods have played a valuable part in supplementing pig rations throughout the UK.

Although the swill feed ban in May 2001 eliminated any products with a meat content; bakery, manufacturing and brewery waste is still widely used.

In November 2003 the Environment Agency threatened to classify all co-products as waste. 

This arose from a European Court of Justice decision as interpreted in Article 1(a) of the Waste Framework Directive and would have brought in a whole raft of new controls and the need for users to obtain appropriate waste management licences.

Co-products are produced to the same standards as human food and are carefully controlled through the UK Agricultural Supply Trade Association Feed Assurance (UKASTA) scheme.

The livestock industry uses almost 1m tonnes of brewers grains/yeast, 250,000t of citrus pulp, 270,000t of potato processing feeds, and large volumes of sugar beet-based feeds, molasses, distillery and maize gluten feed.

Subsequent discussions between the Environment Agency and DEFRA have confirmed that materials resulting from the manufacture of food and drink, which are passed on directly to another undertaking for human or animal consumption, are not waste.

Both the EA and DEFRA have agreed that this conclusion is compatible with the Waste Framework Directive and does not undermine the earlier ECJ ruling.

This decision is welcome at a time when producers‘ margins are under great pressure due to high world grain and commodity prices.